Half A King by Joe Abercrombie

July 23, 2014 Reviews 6 ★★★★½

Half A King by Joe AbercrombieHalf a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie
Published: July 3rd 2014 by HarperVoyager
Format: ARC, 373 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Publisher
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4.5 Stars

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer.

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy...

The world of Abercrombie’s The First Law is famous for its grit and darkness, and I know that many fans were a bit worried when he announced that he’s writing a YA novel set in a whole new world. I don’t know why they were worried – Abercrombie proves that he is a skilled and adaptable writer with Half a King, and I think the Shattered Sea novels will be a favourite with varied audiences.

This is the story of Prince Yarvi of Gettland, the second son of King Uthil, born with a deformed hand and scorned as a cripple by nobility and peasants alike. He’s training to become a minister, to take an oath and forsake family and titles, since no one wants half a king on the throne. But he’s unexpectedly thrust into power, and then – just as suddenly – it’s ripped from him. Sold into slavery and chained to the oars on a merchant ship, Yarvi vows vengeance on his enemies.

Yarvi learns and matures throughout this story, but he has a presence, a gravitas, from the first moment that we meet him. He is well spoken and intelligent, largely unsullied by the world until he is sold into slavery. Thereafter his very character is put to the test. Readers will quickly recognise that he can’t remain unsullied for long, and he does horrible things just to survive. But he remains sympathetic, his actions are realistic given the situations and his reactions are even more understandable. He’s a well crafted and complex character, and I loved reading about him.

The motley crew Yarvi gathers about himself during the novel are also well realised, including Sumael the talented navigator and Nothing, a mysterious (and crazed) master of the blade. Like in his other books, the author is careful to never delimitate his characters into Good and Bad – even the villains in the story are complex and relatable in their own ways.

If there was any doubt in the quality of Abercrombie’s storytelling, it is dispelled in the prologue, which is so brilliant I don’t think anyone will be able to stop reading there. The plotting is incredible, and there are some plot-twists that I never saw coming. (OK, in hindsight, I probably should have seen at least one of them, but I was so engrossed in the story that I forgot to think ahead!) Every step of the great adventure that is Half a King is vividly portrayed.

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Half a King is a book you’ll want on your book shelves (in fact, I have it in hardback and paperback, that’s how much I wanted it on my shelves). If you’re a fan of Abercrombie’s work and think that he’s diluted himself to write YA, give it a chance! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. And fans of YA will love this book – it’s what quality YA fantasy is all about. Me, I’m going to sit here and wait (im)patiently for Half the World.

6 Responses to “Half A King by Joe Abercrombie”

    • Shaheen

      Hi Hannah! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 I think Half a King is a perfect starting point for Abercrombie’s books – it’s a stand-alone and it’s not as daunting in size, subject matter, or violence as his other works. This would familiarise you with his writing and world-building, and if you liked it, you’d be more prepared for The First Law world.

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